23 February 2012

Books: The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett (1934)

I don’t normally read these types of nior-type mysteries, but I had always been intrigued by Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man because I’ve always enjoyed the movie (and kind of looking out for Johnny Depp’s remake in the near future).  Oddly, the book reads like a classic black & white movie with its speakeasies, its gangsters and its dames in distress.  However, it’s also a great book to read for all of its archaic dialogue, the old-school way the cops must do to solve the murder mystery –after all, back in 1932 it was done the old way.

The twist and turning plot involves Nick Charles, a retired detective and Nora, his wife, a dynamic duo who don't let a page go by without having a cocktail. Charles is dragged back into the business when a friend disappears and might be involved in a murder. The friend, Clyde Wynant (the eponymous "thin man"), has suddenly vanished just after his former girlfriend, Julia Wolf, was found dead. Wynant quickly becomes the prime suspect, but his daughter Dorothy can't believe he did it. She convinces Nick to take the case much to the amusement of his socialite wife. The detective stumbles off to find clues, and manages to piece things together through intensive investigation. 

I was a bit surprised, however, how all the twists and turns got boiled down in the final few pages. It is not that I wanted to figure out whodunit, but I would have loved the idea of Nick to make some connections along the way, instead of everything being explained in the last few pages like it’s some exaggerated version of Clue!

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